My first job was the most incredible experience of my life. I played the title role in the Tokyo and London productions of the first official stage adaptation of Studio Ghibli’s animated film Princess Mononoke. The chance to work with your heroes is always a gift. Previously, Hayao Miyazaki had never given the rights to his work to anyone. But he gave the rights to Whole Hog Theatre, thanks to its inventiveness and passion. The show absolutely blew up overnight and our arena performance was aired to 33 million Japanese viewers.
I saw the audition notice on Twitter and applied via Spotlight. I also sent an email expressing my enthusiasm and connection with the film to support my application. The audition consisted of a prepared scene, my own monologue and a movement workshop. I like to keep my repertoire of speeches varied and in good shape so that I can focus my time working on new material. As much as preparation is key, director Alexandra Rutter told me that my good attitude in the workshop secured me the role. Your attitude is just as important as your performance: you may be the best actor, but most of the time, people won’t want to work with you if you’re throwing shade at other auditionees or not listening.
People think it’s a cliché, but your audition begins when you walk into the building. Casting teams really do ask the person signing you in what you were like in the waiting area. There’s not much I’d do differently about my first job – I clicked with the team at Whole Hog and wanted to nurture my relationship with them. I’m an associate on the company’s new show The Garden of Words and I’m endlessly glad I kept in touch.
The best advice I’d offer others is: live a life outside of this profession. This job can be all-consuming, but having friends from all occupations and walks of life will not only ground you and give you perspective but it will, inadvertently, make you a better actor. Broaden your empathy and trust me, it’ll show.
Theatre includes: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Bridge Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre); Wolf Totem (National Theatre Studio); 101 Dalmatians, The BFG, Open House (Birmingham Rep); Summer Times (West Yorkshire Playhouse)
TV includes: My Country (BBC2); Interns (Channel 4)
Agent: Emily Slack, Simon and How Associates
Mei Mac was talking to John Byrne